Michael Nesmith, musician and songwriter, 1942-2021

In 1965, Michael Nesmith answered an commercial in a Los Angeles showbiz paper for “four insane boys” to seem in a tv collection. Out of 437 candidates, Nesmith was judged sufficiently zany to be picked. The Texas-born musician, who has died aged 78, discovered himself recruited to what would change into some of the in style and uncommon musical acts of the Nineteen Sixties. 

Comprising Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones and Peter Tork, The Monkees had been created for a sitcom a few fictional Beatles-style band. The “Prefab Four”, as wags dubbed them, debuted on US TV in 1966. A spin-off album was launched the identical 12 months, topping the US and UK charts. In a case of in style artwork imitating life, Monkeemania ensued, with screaming hysteria and 5,000 fan letters a day. But a press backlash adopted when it emerged that the made-up band didn’t play for actual on their recordings.

Nesmith was bemused by the controversy. “It was like condemning a Chevrolet station wagon for not performing well at the Indy 500,” he stated in 1985.

Born in 1942, Robert Michael Nesmith was raised by his single mum or dad, Bette, an upbringing he characterised as “dirt poor, just miserable”. After faculty, he moved to Los Angeles for its folk-pop scene. Reserved in method and considerate, he was a gifted songwriter whose skills initially went ignored in The Monkees. He and Tork had been the musicians of the group, whereas Dolenz and Jones had been actors.


They had been a manufactured band — however the manufacturing was of the very best high quality. Songs had been written by professionals corresponding to Carole King, Gerry Goffin and Neil Diamond. Their studio recordings had been carried out by prime session band The Wrecking Crew. When Nesmith urged the band report considered one of his compositions, “Different Drum”, the present’s producers refused. He provided it as an alternative to LA band Stone Poneys, whose singer was Linda Ronstadt. Their model was a chart hit in 1967.

The Monkees: Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork © NBCUniversal/Getty

Each Monkee had a stage persona. Nesmith was the moody one, or as moody because the cartoonish antics allowed. The inexperienced woollen hat he wore to the audition turned a signature accent, resulting in his detested nickname, Wool Hat. He thought the TV reveals had been “just whizz-bang” however disdained the early songs. He appreciated their first hit, “Last Train to Clarksville”, however judged 1967’s More of the Monkees to be the “worst album in the history of the world”, regardless of it containing some of the enduring hits of the period, “I’m a Believer”.

Having been allowed sporadic songwriting and manufacturing duties on their first two albums, Nesmith took management along with his bandmates for 1967’s Headquarters. Another chart-topper, it marked the second when the made-up band turned an actual one. Mirroring The Beatles’ transfer into psychedelic rock, they stretched their breezy sound to its limits. A Nesmith-penned music from 1967, “Daily Nightly”, made early use of the Moog synthesiser.


The journey off-piste culminated in a weird 1968 movie and soundtrack, Head, a flop that’s now a cult basic. Nesmith had minimal involvement in it. He had launched his debut solo album that 12 months, The Wichita Train Whistle Sings. In 1970, he left the band. It value him $160,000 on account of a contractual clause, wiping out his financial savings.

He fashioned a brand new group, The First National Band. Its rootsy sound positioned him on the vanguard of the Nineteen Seventies west coast country-rock motion. Although his band’s single “Joanne” was a success, Nesmith’s days as a chart act lay up to now. Critical acclaim changed industrial success.

Behind the madcap Monkee was a freethinker who bridged the conceptual gulf between LA’s leisure trade and California’s counterculture. In 1974, he based a multimedia manufacturing firm, Pacific Arts. He produced unbiased movies together with 1984’s Repo Man and wrote a novel. In 1980, he created PopClips, a music video TV collection that impressed the cable channel MTV.

In a surreal twist worthy of considered one of The Monkees’ reveals, he inherited $25m after his mom died in 1980. A secretary, she had invented the primary correction fluid for typewriting errors in 1956.


Nesmith didn’t look again fondly on his time in The Monkees. But he was happy with their achievements. In the liner notes to The First National Band’s debut album, he cited Hank Williams, Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmie Rodgers as influences for his or her “pure approach to what they have sung and written — free from euphemisms and alive with their own emotions”. His capacity to attract out these qualities in his personal work had roots in pop’s most well-known pretend band.

Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button